Washington County Small Claims Court Pre-Trial Conference
The pre-trial conference is used for the court to attempt to see if your case can be resolved without a trial. This is usually done with an informal settlement conference or mediation. If the case cannot be settled, it will be set for trial on the judge’s trial docket. The plaintiff needs to serve the Defendant before the pre-trial conference or the court will take the pre-trial conference off calendar. Appearances at pre-trial conferences by both plaintiff and defendant are mandatory. Persons representing parties must have full settlement authority otherwise the court may impose court costs and attorney fees on the party failing to comply with this rule. A corporation may be represented at the pre-trial conference by an officer of the corporation or any employee authorized by an officer of the corporation. The court may set different dates if there are multiple defendants to a single case. The plaintiff is still required to attend all of these pre-trial conferences.
Filing a Small Claims Court Case in Washington County Small Claims Court
The plaintiff needs to obtain and complete a Statement of Claim form which is found at the Washington County Small Claims Court Clerk’s office. The form should be typed or printed with a pen to ensure it is legible.
Are Jury Trials available in Washington County Small Claims Court Cases?
Jury trials are available in small claims court cases in Florida. Even though a jury trial is available, the large majority of small claims court cases are heard in front of a judge. Either the plaintiff or defendant may request a jury trial. Small Claims Court Rule 7.150 allows for a jury trial upon written demand of the plaintiff (when the suit is filed) or defendant within five days after being served with notice of the suit or at the pre-trial conference. If neither the plaintiff or defendant request a jury trial, the case will be tried in front of a judge.
Preparing to File a Washington County Small Claims Court Case
Before filing a case, it is important that you attempt to discuss your case with the opposing party about what the actual issue is. The best way to do this is to send a letter which clearly states your complaint. You may be able to resolve your case without going to court. This will be the quickest and easiest way to resolve your dispute.
Court Costs and Fees for Washington County Small Claims Court
There are costs involved with filing a small claims court case in Washington County which include a filing fee and a service fee. If a party obtains a judgment in its favor, these court costs can be added into the total amount of the judgment. You should contact the Washington County Clerk Court to inquire about the specific amount of the filing fee for your case.
Who May File a Washington County Small Claims Court Case?
You can file a small claims court case if you are one of the following:
- Someone 18 years of age and older
- Parents or Guardians can file on behalf of a minor
- You are filing or acting on behalf of a corporation as an officer with prior written authorization
How to Effect Service on a Defendant in Washington County Small Claims Court
After the filing a case, the Defendant needs to be served (the court cannot move forward with the case until service of all Defendants has been completed). The plaintiff needs to know the full names of all the individuals you are suing. You also need to a good address of where that person can be served. If you are suing a business, you need to ascertain whether the business is incorporated or not. If a corporation is being sued, you must have the full name of the corporation and the name and address of a corporate officer or registered agent for the business. This information can be learned from the Department of State, Department of Corporations website for Florida which can be found online at http://www.sunbiz.org or by telephone at 850-245-6052. If a business has a fictitious name, you will need to obtain that as well. The Florida Department of Corporations can be used to research this as well.
Washington County Small Claims Court Jurisdiction
In Florida, a small claims court case can only be filed in the county where the incident giving rise to the claim occurred, the property involved in the case sits, or where the Defendant lives. If none of these apply, then the Washington County Small Claims Court will not have proper jurisdiction to hear the case. If the court does not have jurisdiction, this would allow the judgment you obtain to be attacked by the defendant afterwards when you begin to collect it. Small Claims court cases in Washington County can hear cases concerning claims up to $5,000.00 (with costs, attorneys fees and interests added on top of that). Rule 7.010 of the Florida rules of Court and Chapter 34 of the Florida Statutes is what authorizes the claim limit for small claims court cases.
Types of Cases Not Handled in Washington County Small Claims Court
Florida Small Claims Court cases cannot handle cases involving the following items:
- traffic court fines
Washington County Small Claims Courthouse
Small claims court cases can be filed at the Washington County Courthouse which is located at: 1293 Jackson Avenue Chipley, FL 32428 The courthouse can be reached at: 850-638-6289.
Rules Governing Small Claims Court Cases in Washington County
Small Claims court cases in Washington County are governed by the Florida Small Claims Rules.